Well, for a few posts this summer I’m taking a new approach to things. Why? I thought’ I’d walk everyone through what it takes to process an archival collection. This won’t be a weekly series, but rather posts after various stages of the process.
So how did I come across this collection? It’s my great-grandmother’s photos and documents. She hadn’t done anything with them in years and I recently relocated them when we were forced to move her from assisted living to skilled care. Did I forget to mention she’s 105? She’s seen a lot of things in her lifetime and this collection reflects that. Of course it’s no longer complete; at one point she gave the albums she kept on each of her grandsons to the respective grandson. Also, in the past, one of my uncles convinced her to give him the old tintypes. Previously, I had been given two circa 1910 large prints, one torn in half. What is left is directly related to her life. There are photos of things she and my great-grandfather did, often with her sisters and their husbands. There are documents from high school reunions, church events, and from government organizations celebrating her centenarian status.
How did I manage to be allowed to keep these? Well, my grandfather decided since I rescued them and was the “family archivist” that I should be entrusted with the material. I’m glad he thought that my training would be useful. And it helps that he knows how much genealogy research I have done on the family too, frequently in partnership with his cousin.
Thus with all this in mind, plus the need to still make the material available for the rest of the family, I began. Step one was to locate needed supplies. That will be what this post is about.
The first critical step to preserving this collection is to remove photos from two sticky albums. If you recall from my earlier post on caring for photographs, I said photos need to be removed from these types of albums because pages are too acidic. From past experience, it is not always easy to remove these photographs. I’ll write more about this process in a future post.
Other items in the collection were larger and held in envelopes. I knew these would need protection as well. To this end, I wanted to see if I could track down actual archival enclosures, Mylar sleeves, to house them in. While I was unable to find the Mylar sleeves outside of archival supply catalogs, I wasn’t entirely without luck. At Office Max I found archival grade 8.5″ X 11″ InPlace brand page protectors made for use with three-ring binders that offered a fold over top to secure the documents. I bought a package of these (a pack of 25 sells for $6.99) to house the documents and 8″ X 10″ photographs. They might not be as thick as the Mylar sleeves, but they are thicker than standard page protectors (4.1 mm as opposed to 3.1 mm) and acid-free. What can I say? I’m making due with the best I can find widely available which means, if needed, you can too!
My search for supplies didn’t end with archival-grade page protectors. I also purchased a new acid-free photo album for the freed photographs. I will use this for all photos sized 4″ X 6″ or smaller. For larger photos, I’ll use photo corners to adhere the images to acid-free paper and place them in the page protectors. This way, those stay with the other items in the collection and are easily viewable to family wanting to take a look. I thought about using my make-your-own-photo-sleeve method, but that does work best for little viewed photos and I know that won’t be the case with these. I also knew I’d need acid-free, buffered paper but luckily I already had that! If you ever need that, it can be located at most office supply stores; if you don’t see it, ask. It may not be the best, which is the Permalife brand that has been tested to hold up for 500 years, but it should still last a long time and is safer to use than regular paper. I will also be using this to interleave in a couple booklets to absorb acid. Lastly, I knew I had the big, torn, approximately 14″ by 20″ circa 1910 photograph that needed conservation treatment. Plus should something else become damaged, I wanted conservation supplies on hand. Paintbrushes are easily acquired at the craft store, but Methyl Cellulose or wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue paper aren’t. I couldn’t buy these at the craft store and Amazon only had a small, but extremely expensive tube of Methyl Cellulose. Thus, the repair to the big photo will have to wait because until I’m permanently employed as I can’t afford t pay an archival supply store approximately $60 for the two items. Someday though, someday! I learned the technique.
I was able to acquire one last essential archive tool: a micro spatula. This handy little tool can be used many ways from removing staples to spreading the aforementioned adhesives. I could have ordered one from an archival supply store or Amazon.con for around $17 but I wanted to see if I could find one elsewhere cheaper. I checked the nearby Hobby Lobby (art, crafting, and scrapbooking departments) to no avail. I thought I might be able to locate something similar, especially in art department, but I couldn’t. But I still acquired one through a roundabout way. Amazon.com was selling them in both bookbinding and scientific supplies, so I showed my dad a picture of what I needed. He had some in his school’s science lab that were never used! Thus I’m able to borrow one.
Soon I hope to begin the process of removing and rehousing the photos. After that, I’ll embark on a scanning project on selected material.
Does anyone have any questions about my search for supplies? Or my plans?